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Job Magician Aw, C'Mon -
Put on a Tie for an Interview
  • Overdressing for an interview is unlikely to kill you. Underdressing will. 
  • Wear a suit or the woman's equivalent thereof for an interview, whether it's with an employer, a recruiter or a networking contact. 
  • Don't take the risk of dressing business casual, or you could be casually dumped.  

Is dressing well really that painful?

This never seems to amaze me, but candidates continue to do this.  Recently, on the same day, I interviewed two highly-educated candidates, and both dressed low-end business casual for a six-figure-plus position. That may be standard in their workplaces, but no candidate can afford to assume that the dress code at their workplace is the same one that the new employer will have, even if most places in their industry dress business casual. 

In another recent case, just before an interview, a candidate sent me an email saying, "Unless you object, I'll dress business casual." I said nothing, but marked him down for that one (he was an awful candidate in many other ways, and even being well-dressed wouldn't have gotten me to introduce him to my client). When you're a candidate, you're a salesperson. You're trying to get onto someone else's turf, so you shouldn't be setting the terms for the meeting, just as you wouldn't dare pull out a cigarette and start smoking it in someone's office during a job interview. There's no reason to be presumptuous in any way.

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Unless told otherwise, dress your best.  It can't hurt to be dressed a notch better than the interviewer. If you get there and feel your style of dress really doesn't fit in, you can always adjust downward - off with the suit jacket, off with the tie, up with the sleeves (this is quite easy if you are going to have multiple meetings during the interview day). If you go dressed  downward to any interview, you're screwed because you can't adjust up.
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